Little catch, big flavor: 3 days to snag spot shrimp in Tacoma in May

3 days to snag spot shrimp in Tacoma in May

jeff.mayor@thenewstribune.comApril 13, 2014 

People fishing for shrimp near Tacoma will have three days to set their pots, while anglers will have nearly all of May to seek shrimp in the waters around Puget Sound.

Recreational fishing for spot shrimp in Puget Sound will open May 3.

This year’s Puget Sound shrimp fishing seasons are similar to those in 2013 with a few exceptions, Mark O’Toole, a shellfish biologist for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, said in a news release.

The waters off Olympia will be open May 3-31, while Tacoma waters will be open May 3, 7 and 10, compared with two days in 2013.

Despite the short seasons in some areas, shrimping is popular among Puget Sound anglers.

“The spotted shrimp are big, and they’re really good eating,” said Art Tachell at Point Defiance Boathouse in Tacoma. “Most people go shrimping while they’re on an outing. There isn’t a big push in this area, mainly because it is a three-day opening.”

That doesn’t mean they can’t be found, Tachell said.

Quartermaster Harbor is among locations where he has had success. Piner Point, on the southeast edge of Maury Island, is a good spot. “Watch the currents there, and make sure you have lots of rope. It’s easy to lose your pots there,” Tachell said.

There are some spots off Browns Point that also hold shrimp.

At the north end of Maury Island, anglers should try Point Heyer on the north side of Tramp Harbor, he added.

Most spot shrimp will be caught at 125-250 feet down, depending on how bright the day is, said Tom Nelson of Salmon University.

He said to watch for clouds of bait appearing close to the bottom on your depth finder.

Because the shrimp move with the tide and the amount of light, Nelson said to drop your next pot a few hundred yards away.

“Let your first dropped pot soak for about 45 minutes. Then check your pot to see if your catch has been good,” Nelson said. “If it has, drop it again. Scatter your pots to start with, and as you find shrimp, cluster your pots closer together. After you are satisfied that you have found a good shrimp bed, check your pots about once an hour.”

Once you catch your shrimp, Nelson recommends placing 40 shrimp in a gallon-size plastic bag marked with the name of the angler. He then puts the bags on ice.

As for bait, the key is to make sure it smells, said John Keizer of Salt Patrol.

The favorite bait is fish-flavored cat food in cans. A popular variety is Friskies in either Sea Captain’s Choice or Whitefish, he said. If you use canned cat food, punch a number of large holes punched in the sides of the cans for the scent to escape.

Other bait options include any oily fish, salmon roe, fish fertilizer or clam guts, or all above mixed together. Some people even grind up their old freezer-burned herring salmon bait, Keizer said.

In addition to the one-day extension in Marine Area 11, O’Toole said there are several changes for this season.

“We have slightly lower quotas than last year in Hood Canal and Discovery Bay, which are traditionally popular areas,” he said in the release. “We will reopen the areas later if sufficient quota remains.”

The department is expanding the opportunity for shrimp fishing in Marine Area 7 West, which will be open daily beginning June 1 until the quota is reached or until Sept. 15, whichever comes first. That’s a change from last season’s schedule of Thursday through Saturday for the same time period. It is likely this area will be open for spot shrimp fishing well into the summer, due to an increase in allocation that was implemented last year, O’Toole said.

Additional dates and times for all areas will be announced if sufficient quota remains after the initial fishing days scheduled.

Also known as prawns, spot shrimp are the largest shrimp found in Puget Sound and can grow up to 9 inches long. The limit in all areas of Puget Sound is 80 spot shrimp per day. A valid 2014-15 fishing license is required to participate in the fishery. Things to know

• Each harvester must have a separate container for their catch, either in their possession or identified with their name.

• There is no minimum carapace size.

• A maximum of two shrimp pots per person is allowed and no more than four shrimp pots per boat.


Combination license: Allows you to fish in freshwater and saltwater and harvest shellfish (including razor clams) and seaweed.

Shellfish/seaweed license: Allows you to harvest razor clams, red rock, coastal Dungeness crab, goose barnacles, mussels, octopuses, oysters, scallops, sea cucumbers, sea urchins, shrimp, softshell and hardshell clams, squid and seaweed.

Short-term combination licenses: These one- to five-day licenses work just like a combination license.


  • Puget Sound recreational shrimp season openings
  • Hood Canal Shrimp District (Marine Area 12): Open from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on May 3, 7, 10 and 21.
  • Discovery Bay Shrimp District (Marine Area 6): Open from 7 a.m.-3 p.m. on May 3, 7, 10 and 21.
  • Marine Areas 4 (east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line), 5, 6 and 13 (excluding Discovery Bay Shrimp District): Open daily beginning May 3. The season will close when the quota is attained or on Sept. 15, whichever comes first. The exception is Marine Area 13, which closes for spot shrimp May 31.
  • Marine Area 7 East, South and West: Open May 3 for a one-day fishery and will reopen May 7-10, May 21-24 and May 28-31. In Marine Area 7 West only, the season will be open daily beginning June 1 until the quota is reached or Sept. 15, whichever comes first.
  • Marine Areas 8-1, 8-2, 9 and 10: Open from 7 a.m.-3 p.m. on May 3 and May 7.
  • Marine Area 11: Open from 7 a.m.-3 p.m. on May 3, 7 and 10.
  • In areas 4, 5, 6, 7 (East, South and West) and 13, start times will be one hour before sunrise.


To learn more about sport shrimp seasons, or for a description of marine areas, visit the agency’s recreational shrimp fishing website at shellfish/shrimp.

Jeffrey P. Mayor: 253-597-8640

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